Why debating with Jehovah’s Witnesses is pointless

I must admit to a degree of naivety when I had my first debate with two Jehovah’s Witnesses a few months ago. I say ‘naive’ because when they asked me “Do you believe in God?” I didn’t lock the door and ignore them like any sensible person should.

Instead, I stood there fully expecting to have an interesting debate on the existence of God. I remember my response well. “No” I said, while racking my brain at what I was going to say next. “Actually I’m a staunch atheist. I read a lot of books by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett and…” I looked over and saw blank expressions. Clearly, they hadn’t heard of them.

To be honest, it took me 4 fairly lengthy discussions and 3 Watchtower books to fully realise that I was wasting my time with them. No matter how logical my arguments were and how much scientific evidence I could point them to, they just weren’t open to any suggestion that the Bible might be wrong.

But why would they be? Clearly they’re not going to be reasoned out of beliefs that they obviously haven’t reasoned themselves into. And besides, the Witnesses who go preaching from door to door aren’t the ones sitting on the fence.

No, their intention is to preach the Good News, as they term it, in order to convert people to a belief in God to save them from the impending annihilation that awaits unbelievers following Armageddon. It’s safe to assume that these viewpoints aren’t the result of an evaluation of the existing evidence for such claims.

The last conversation I had with them was probably the most absurd. It was about the story of Noah’s Ark, which they believed was absolutely true. I tried to point out the extreme unlikelihood(!) that a 600 year old man built a boat containing several million species of animals in order to save them from a future flood that would cover the tops of every mountain on earth. (And that’s not to mention that the guy lived until he was over 900 years old… and that many of the animals would have been natural predators… and that animals from continents unknown to Noah would have had to have swam oceans and walked continents to arrive at the Ark.)

They accepted all of this without a hint of doubt, and no amount of common sense or evidence to the contrary made any difference to their belief in the literal truth of the Bible.

I must admit, I was amazed to find myself having to debate the merits of these stories with adults.

In hindsight, I now realise that I completely wasted my time. I went out of my way to read their books and debate with them because I genuinely wanted to get a clearer idea of their viewpoints. Of course, I didn’t seriously think that I would convert to a belief in God but I at least wanted to know more about the beliefs of the people that I was debating with.

Did they do the same in return? No. At no point did they show any genuine interest in the literature that I quoted or the topics I raised – a lot of which had a direct bearing on the validity of their beliefs.

The next time they call, I might decide that I’m too busy reading a science book to answer the door.

Many claims in the Bible are factually wrong or impossible

Amongst other things, the Bible implies or claims that

  • the earth is about 6,000 years old
  • a man lived inside the belly of an animal for several days
  • many human beings lived for over 900 years
  • people were resurrected from the dead
  • a rod changed into a serpent
  • a woman turned into a pillar of salt
  • several animals were able to converse in human language
  • Jesus miraculously healed ‘every sickness and every disease among the people’
  • two specimens from every species on earth went inside a boat built by a man who was over 300 years old.

… the list could go on and on and on. So let’s take a closer look at the story of Noah’s Ark.

There are about 725 species of butterfly in North America alone – that’s only a minuscule portion of what Noah had to gather. Estimates of the total number of living species generally range from about 2 to 50 million. It would be simply impossible to fit that many animals into one boat. Not forgetting the fact that many wild animals are notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to control.

Also, many of the animals would have been natural predators and this would have led to instant extinction for many species.

How did the animals actually travel to the boat? A large proportion of animals can’t survive in water and certainly can’t swim. (If they could, presumably they wouldn’t need to use the Ark). Perhaps Noah gathered them himself from continents that were unknown at the time? That seems a little unlikely.

The technology and man-power to build a boat of that size simply did not exist in those days. We would have to suppose that the size of the Ark would have been vastly bigger than anything that is possible in these technological-superior times.

And where is the actual evidence that the oceans covered the tops of the highest mountains on earth, as claimed in the book of Genesis? Where is the evidence for the Ark itself? Where did all the water come from? Where did it all go? Such a huge worldwide event should have evidence in abundance in every continent.

Also, the Bible fails to mention fossils, dinosaurs and evolution. Why? These would have played a very prominent part in the story of Noah’s Ark.

Granted, the Bible isn’t intended to be a science textbook but if it really is the word of the Creator, then why it is full of such crude ignorance about the world?